The Iron Giant, I am told by virtually everyone who loves anything to do with animation, is one of the great lost treasures of 1999. Given my recent Ratatouille obsession, it seemed only natural to check out Brad Bird’s first directorial masterpiece. The verdict? Yet another beautiful story that was wrecked by boneheaded marketing departments.
It’s a simple story: boy finds giant robot, robot and boy become friends, paranoid government wants to kill robot, robot eventually saves the paranoid government. Set in a beautifully rendered 1957, the small town of Rockwell, Maine buzzes with news of the Sputnik launch, thus making the Iron Giant—a robot from space—the perfect allegory for the technophobic/xenophobic vibe of the time. The plot isn’t complicated, but it touches on the universals of fear, control, and self-determination that so often make for a good movie.
I have this thing about autumn. It’s my favorite season, as much for the color as for the smell in the air. Most of The Iron Giant takes place during a New England autumn, and the colors and textures work so wonderfully that you can almost smell the leaves. Artistically, this movie is as good as I’d heard. Characters are constantly in motion, the lines that make up their bodies betraying at least as much as emotion as their voice actors. The Giant himself is a seamless blend of CGI and traditional animation, wonderfully retro and voiced, such as it is, by Vin Diesel. From start to finish, it’s beautiful.
I’m going to admit something to you all. The Iron Giant made me cry. I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t think I was paying enough attention to the movie for it to happen, but there you go. Tears. Tears like some woman. Rent the DVD if you’re in the mood.